There are several things deeply troubling U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, a Democrat from New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, he told a town hall meeting Wednesday night: a possible economic downturn, gun safety, climate change.
“People still haven’t recovered from 2008,” Kim said about the economy, where indicators released earlier in the day raised the possibility of a coming recession. “It worries me deeply to try to imagine what’s going to happen.”
But constituents at the meeting, held at the Relief Fire Company on Neck Road in Burlington Township, started with and repeatedly returned to another issue: the impeachment of the president.
“The solution for this is impeachment,” Lynn Winkler of Mount Laurel said to applause. “I don’t understand why we don’t trust our own laws. If you vote for impeachment, I’m right behind you in this."
“I would like to start with a clean slate,” said Elizabeth Carpenter of Mount Laurel, also urging Kim to support a formal impeachment proceeding. “The fish rots from the head down. I don’t want to be part of that rot anymore."
Kim, who flipped a seat formerly held by Republican Tom MacArthur, told the crowd of about 60 people that he took the constitutional oversight duties of Congress seriously: “The question about impeachment is right up there with going to war.”
But, Kim said, “it’s not an issue we can rush or think through with political expediency.”
“You can’t think about this as a clean slate,” Kim said. “Nothing’s going to give us a clean slate. Our country has a lot of deep-rooted problems that are going to extend well beyond when this president’s time in office is over.”
But Kim told the group, “I certainly get the message loud and clear how people in this room feel.
"I know that you’re angry and upset. I understand that. But I want to make sure we understand that oversight or impeachment are not going to wish away a lot of the problems that we face,” he said.
Kim, a former Obama administration official who serves as vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee, did some heavy lifting for Democrats in 2018 when he won the seat from MacArthur, a Trump ally.
It was Burlington County voters who gave the election to Kim, just barely edging out the vote from heavily Republican Ocean County.
At a meeting in late July, shortly after the testimony before Congress of special counsel Robert Mueller, Kim was also hit with calls to move forward on formal impeachment proceedings, which he fended off. (On Wednesday, other questions concerned climate change, guns, mental health, and affordable housing.)
“Look, the investigations are moving forward,” Kim said. “I think that’s what I find confusing about this process. There’s no need for formal votes at this point. I think it’s good we have the oversight side in Congress, but we also need to move forward on the other issues.”
Kim’s margin of victory was slim, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is working to try to protect the seat in the 2020 election, opening a field office in Marlton this week, said Anthony DeAngelo, Kim’s communications director.
Although painted by opponents as a “Pelosi liberal” during the election, Kim has walked a relatively moderate line and focused on issues affecting his district, eschewing the national profile some other freshmen representatives have achieved.
He cosponsored H.R. 1, a bill aimed at improving election security, and a bill to help small businesses hire reservists — the Patriotic Protection Act. He worked to pass an amendment that would secure money for a Route 539 overpass near Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and to protect jobs at Lockheed Martin facilities in the district.
“I’ve put myself in positions where I can deliver on what I want to do,” Kim said before the meeting. “I tried to choose places where I knew there were priorities for the district: the joint base, small businesses. Those are places I can deliver even with a divided government.”